So today was the day. 6.00 am and the sky was clear. It was still dark but I could see there were no clouds. It was going to be a fabulous day. A lovely drive and then a wonderful hill walk in one of Scotland’s most scenic glens. I could barely contain my excitement as I ate my porridge.
Breakfast finished, lunch, flasks of tea and rucksacks packed with warm clothes and waterproofs (not that the waterproofs were going to be needed today). Daylight had arrived, the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. Oh my, today was going to be great.
The drive up to Glen Lyon is a bit of an adventure in itself. This involved a tootle along the M9 motorway to the Callander exit, then the wonderful drive along the A84 and alongside Loch Luibnaig. The views were amazing. The loch was like glass so clear it was difficult to decide which was the reflection and which the real thing. Driving on through Lochearnhead and up Glen Ogle, I glanced over at the old railway bridge, remembering the many different cycling adventures I have had on that cycle route. The road from here sweeps down passed all the now harvested trees, giving a glimpse of the twin munros of Ben More and Stob Binnein towards Crianlarich. Our route though takes a sharp right down to the small village of Killin and passed the tumbling Falls of Dochart. A mile or so beyond Killin we take the small single track road towards Ben Lawers and Bridge of Balgie. At least there will be no snow today to make the journey hazardous.
What could go wrong?
It’s been many years since I drove all the way down this glen and the map is a bit vague – drive to the end of the single track road to the dam. What could go wrong? Well this is me of course. So five minutes along (or up) the single track road I met my first hazard, a large timber lorry coming down the winding hill. Oh flip! Now I am the girl who can drive quite well forwards but reversing is not really my thing. I panic if I have to reverse the length of Ladysmill outside the tearoom! Of course, today it was made even worse because I had the joy of Mr M, the back seat driver. “You will have to reverse down the hill a bit,” he informed me. No kidding, I thought! “left a bit, right a bit, straight back……” You get the picture. Finally I managed to reverse down the winding single track road to a passing place large enough to allow the lorry to pass me. He passed me with a smile, a nod and a friendly wave. Perhaps he could feel the tension in the car.
Where Is That Dam?
So back to my route. Start at the end of the road below the dam of Loch an Daimh. The road continues in the same vein, twisting, rising, and getting narrower as you pass the Ben Lawers range on your right (think Beatrix chasing skiers) and the Tarmachan ridge on the left. We passed the first dam on the left. Not this dam we both agreed as this was not the end of the road and we had not driven far enough. I continued on the road, ever conscious of the Mr M gripping his seat, sighing, gasping and I am sure I even saw him mopping his brow! I was only going 20 mph at some points! This road had been blocked by deep snow for a long time during the winter and now bears evidence of this. The road surface was terrible, there were pot holes the size of our house, grit, gravel and deep ditches down the side of the narrow strip of road I was driving on. The sign at the bottom of the road said Bridge of Balgie 9 miles then I had a few more miles to drive towards the end of the glen. At least the sun was shining and the views were amazing. We eventually arrived at Bridge of Balgie and took the turning to the left, with the sign indicating this was a dead end after 10 miles. This is the road we both agreed. Can I just emphasise the word both here! Now this road was actually a little better. There were not the high drops at the side of the road and it even felt wide enough for my car. We passed another dam. No, not this one, we both agreed as it is still not the end of the road. So we drove on, enjoying the scenery. By now, my back seat driver had relaxed a little but had become the, “I think I need the toilet. I am getting hungry” passenger instead. Beatrix of course, was just sitting in the back with her head resting between the head rests. I wonder what she was thinking.
Shall I leave him here?
Eventually we did indeed come to the end of the road and the huge dam towered over us. Mr M very proudly announced that this was not the right dam as he can clearly remember having a large parking area and signs all around. So whilst he got out of the car and did what he needed to do, I turned the car around. Yes, I did contemplate leaving him there! “You will just have to go back and find the right one. You have obviously gone the wrong way”, he advised me. Obviously! So we set off back down the road and eventually found ourselves back at the Bridge of Balgie. Time was now marching on so I made the decision that I would drive back to the Ben Lawers car park and we would go for a short walk from there. In my mind, my short walk was actually to go up Beinn Ghlas (the munro you climb on the way to Ben Lawers). From the Bridge of Balgie I now had to drive back up the narrow road. Of course the steep drops were now on my side of the car, which added to my excitement a little. Now I have already told you that the road was covered in pot holes, gravel, stones and ditches down either side. I was driving very cautiously but suddenly my passenger side wheel managed to go down one of the soft ditches. The car twitched, and twisted and the steering wheel pulled in my hand. I have to admit my heart was in my mouth (actually I think at this point it was running alongside the car) but I managed to catch the skid and carry on my merry way. My back seat driver was now almost in the passenger foot well and I could hear lots of sharp in takes of breath. To his credit, he never said a word!
Finally, we arrived back at the Ben Lawers car park and safety. Excitement over, but it was now nearly lunch time. We had some of our lunch in the car and then donned our walking boots ready for the walk. I pointed out Beinn Ghlass to Mr M and said that’s where we are going. Again, to be fair to him, he never said anything.
Now just as everyone else in Scotland was enjoying the glorious whether, our sunshine disappeared at the same time as we got out of the car! The temperature had dropped somewhat and the wind was building up. Nevertheless, we had a great walk to the top of Beinn Ghlas. The rain came down in heavy showers, but fortunately, it was falling horizontally because of the force 10 wind. Mr M did make lots of comments on the way to the summit, such as, “this is steep; this wind is so strong; my hearing aid is whistling; I need another jacket on; I need a rest”. Beatrix meanwhile was chasing after every stone she could find, barking at people to thrown the stones to her and generally making a nuisance of herself. The turning point was when I told Mr M and Beatrix in no uncertain terms that if they did not stop their behaviour I would quite simply leave them on the hill and go back to the car. In hindsight, I should have said this at the start of the walk because this behaviour ceased very quickly after that.
Again, in fairness of Mr M, it was incredibly windy and I was actually blown off my feet a couple of times heading towards the summit. Nevertheless, we found a sheltered spot in the dip between the top of Beinn Ghlass and the start of the final ascent to Ben Lawers. Lunch was very enjoyable and peace reined once more. Of course, this was helped somewhat by the lovely Candy Road I had in my lunch pack.
I decided to take us down the old Shephard’s trail around Beinn Ghlass rather than back down the steep ascent we had climbed. This gave us an easy descent and eventually we were back to the safety of the car.
“Do you want me to drive from here?” asked Mr M.
Of course this week’s song has to be:
I Love My Dog by Cat Stevens.